Stemming the incoherence of misguided Muslim pundits’: my response

Truth, error, good, bad, etc. are not absolutes. There are no ‘facts’ when we talk about truth, error, good, bad, etc., in religion. They are all relative and subject to time and place. And what is good/bad in religion may not be good/bad from society’s point of view. And what is good/bad from society’s point of view, yesterday, may not be good/bad from society’s point of view today.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

It is truly shameful that the affairs of Muslims were being discussed without the guidance of scholars of Islām possessing true and correct knowledge of the religion.

How can one even be sure that they are speaking earnestly and truthfully on behalf of Islām?

Furthermore, a non-Muslim making ignorant statements about Islām may be excused on the basis of not himself being a Muslim and of being obstinate. Yet, a greater cause for concern is when a ignorant Muslim makes ambivalent declarations about the nature of Islām as a religion.

In fact, this betrays a categorical confusion on her part because from the Muslim understanding, Islām is the true revealed religion, and the affirmation of this fact has consequences both in this world and in the hereafter.

The religion of Islām requires both belief (imān) and submission (islām) from its believers. Both are not identical, but they are mutually inseparable and indispensable, which means that one cannot do without the other.

Those who argue along the lines of half-baked understanding of the Qur’ānic verse often do not even bother to read the second part of the verse that makes clear the distinction between Truth and error. There is no sense in holding on to that verse if this distinction is only mentioned in briefly or outrightly dismissed without equally serious consideration. The religion of Islām makes clear its claim to Truth, and this is why its content is cognitive to the human mind.

A person who is presented with a choice between what is good and what is bad and proceeds to choose the bad is not exercising real freedom. In truth, the person is trapped within his own ignorance, thus unable to make the right choice in choosing for the better, and in doing so, has committed a grave injustice to his or her own self and others.

If we allow the promissory note for such literal interpretation of the verse devoid of scholarly consensus and right guidance, then there would be nothing left to prevent the likes of fanatics, demagogues and even militant extremists from appropriating Islām in order to justify atrocities and perpetuate even further injustices.



Those are some of the extracts from the letter that Muhammad Husni Mohd Amin, Wan Mohd Aimran Wan Mohd Kamil, Muhammad Syukri Rosli and Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal sent to Malaysia Today, and which we published today.

I suspect many of you were quite lost by the language used and could not quite make out what the authors were trying to say — other than that only Muslim scholars should talk about Islam and that Islam is the true religion while all others are false.

Nevertheless, maybe I can respond to some of the salient points raised in that letter. And I am addressing my response to Muhammad Husni Mohd Amin, Wan Mohd Aimran Wan Mohd Kamil, Muhammad Syukri Rosli and Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal.

When we debate an issue or argue a point, we must be very clear in our mind as to the intended audience. The audience, on the other hand, must be very clear as to what ‘platform’ we are standing on in presenting our arguments.

From your arguments, it is clear that you are speaking as Islamists and your audience is meant to be fellow Muslims. You do not care about the views of the non-Muslims. You are giving your views on Islam from the perspective of a Muslim and meant for the ears of Muslims.

In that case, those not of the Islamic faith will never accept what you say. What you say has nothing to do with the non-Muslims. You, a Muslim, talks about Islam, from the perspective of Islam, meant for a Muslim audience.

You have crafted your letter as if you are presenting facts. No doubt, to Muslims, you are definitely presenting facts. To the non-Muslims, however, what you say are not facts. These are merely opinions. And non-Muslims, for sure, will have a different opinion to you.

For example, to the Christians, Jesus is the Son of God, humankind was born with sins, and Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Hence if we accept Jesus we would be saved.

This is an indisputable fact to most Christians.

To Muslims, however, this is not a fact. In fact, Muslims may even consider this a lie. Hence non-Muslims would not regard this Christian doctrine as fact but merely an opinion (and a misguided one at that, too, Muslims will argue). Therefore, being an opinion, and an opinion that Muslims do not agree with, the Christian doctrine could be right or could be wrong (and certainly wrong from the Islamic perspective).

Hence, when you talk to a multi-cultural audience, you need to understand the proper way in doing so. For example, instead of stating ‘facts’, it would help if you say things like ‘according to the Muslim belief’, etc. Then we would be implying that this is what I, as a Muslim, believe, but I am not suggesting that you, too, believe what I believe.

Now, in that letter, are you discussing a matter of theology, philosophy, a legal issue, the Federal Constitution, issue of human rights and civil liberties, or what? From my reading of the letter, you are discussing theology, and Islamic theology in particular.

Would Muslims be interested in hearing someone talk about Hinduism or Christianity from the theological aspect? And would Muslims be convinced by these arguments and accept them as the truth?

This is the flaw in most arguments presented by Muslims. You have your beliefs and you present your beliefs as facts and you expect others to also accept them as facts. And when they cannot, you get upset and start screaming that these people have insulted Islam and therefore action should be taken against these people.

Maybe we can look at this issue not from the perspective of theology, in particular Islamic theology. Then, and only then, can we talk to a multi-cultural audience, which I suspect is what you are trying to do since you sent your letter to Malaysia Today.

You spoke about truth and error. You also spoke about good and bad. Now, I am going to address my comments not just to Muslims but also to religionists in general.

Truth, error, good, bad, etc. are not absolutes. There are no ‘facts’ when we talk about truth, error, good, bad, etc., in religion. They are all relative and subject to time and place. And what is good/bad in religion may not be good/bad from society’s point of view. And what is good/bad from society’s point of view, yesterday, may not be good/bad from society’s point of view today.

In other words, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ constantly changes. It changes according to the period. It changes according to the region. And it changes according to the society you live in.

For example, 100 years or so ago, any woman wearing a miniskirt in England would be vilified and maybe even accosted. Today, a woman can walk around town practically in her panties and nothing will happen. So what was bad 100 years ago in England is no longer bad.

Now, if a woman walks around town in a miniskirt in Saudia Arabia, she would be arrested and flogged. In Malaysia, she will not be arrested and flogged. However, if she walks around Kota Bharu in her panties she will, for sure, be in trouble.

Hence is wearing a miniskirt (or just your panties) good or bad? It depends on what period you live in and where you live.

So how can good and bad be taken as absolutes? Good and bad will change across time and across borders. Hence, when you argue about what you consider as good and bad, that is merely your opinion and that does not make it a fact or mean you are right.

Let me give you another example. Marrying off your daughter who already has her period (say at age 11) to a boy who has reached puberty (say age 12) is allowed in Islam. Since it is allowed in Islam then it must be good. But would society also regard that as ‘good’ just because Islam does not forbid it and therefore it is considered good?

Would you marry off your 11-year-old daughter to a man of, say, 45 (a millionaire Datuk)? There is nothing wrong with that. And since it is not wrong then it is good. However, you would probably not consider it ‘good’ although it is allowed in religion.

Let me take another example, this time regarding slavery.

Islam has never outlawed slavery. Muslims are allowed to own slaves and you can even have sex with your slaves. This is perfectly legal in Islam. But if I were to offer you some slaves to buy — and pretty ones who have been ‘well-trained’ in how to please their master in bed on top of that — would you consider that ‘good’? How can it not be good when Islam allows it?

The slave trade saw about 11 million Africans captured and sold. And many of these slavers were actually Muslim Arabs. The Arabs were still trading in slaves long after the west had outlawed slavery. Society had by then considered slavery as bad when the Arab Muslims slavers were still doing a roaring business in selling captured Africans.

To have an intelligent and intellectual discourse with decorum and civility is not easy in Malaysia Today. Many of the readers are crude and brash and do not understand how to be polite. Malaysia Today readers regard name-calling and mocking as debating. That is the problem we face in trying to build bridges between the different communities in Malaysia.

I have given up trying to civilise Malaysia Today readers. So now I talk exactly like how they talk. And, of course, they do not like it one bit. What they fail to realise is that when they talk like that others do not like it as well. But I will continue to give them a taste of their own medicine until they ‘vomit blood’.

Nevertheless, I welcome such letters and I hope you will continue sending them to Malaysia Today. The only thing is do not expect intelligent or intellectual responses to such letters. But in the spirit or dakwah do not let that discourage you.